Thursday, October 17, 2013

Creating atheists

Tom Gilson, of Ratio Christi, has been posting a series about Peter Boghossian, author of A Manual for Creating Atheists. Today's entry argues that churches should do a much better job preparing believers to confront the arguments of atheists:
.... Some atheists seem to think that atheism is a sort of default position that requires no proof to support it. Both anthropological and human developmental research, however, indicate that belief in God (or gods) is the human’s natural position. It takes effort to make an atheist. ....

...[T]he way to create atheists is to cause Christians to question why they believe. ....

...[I]t’s simple: just ask believers where they get their beliefs from, and then question whether that’s credible. You’re bound to see at least some believers realizing their faith is built on a vapor, and just giving up on it. ....

.... It’s as simple as asking, “Do you believe x about the faith?” — for example, Do you believe Jonah lived three days in the belly of the big fish? And then following that up with, If so, how do you know?

More often than not, the answer eventually turns out to be, “Because I have faith,” or, “Because the Bible says so,” or something similar. The problem is, both those answers work just as well in in Mormonism, Islam, or any other religion; or I should say, they work just as poorly in all faiths. There’s no substance to them. They’re bad reasons to believe. ....

This is how we’ve helped create atheists: we haven’t asked ourselves those same kinds of questions. We haven’t searched out the answers for ourselves. We haven’t trained the next generations to do it either. We’ve left ourselves wide open to doubt, just because we don’t know how to answer, “why do you believe?” ....

...I know why I believe that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again from the dead. I know why that’s an historically credible belief, and how it helps make sense of all reality. The resurrection really is the point, after all. Suppose the Jonah story were just an allegory, or suppose no one had any idea why they believed it was true. The resurrection trumps all that. If Jesus really lived, died, and rose again—and if we can really know that he did so—that’s enough to establish the reality of Christian belief. ....

Atheists are made, not born. Solid, firm believing Christians...are born, then born again in the Spirit, then made by good training. They know their reasons to believe because they’ve been taught. They know how to handle questions because they’ve been trained. They’ve studied: they know their reasons for believing in God, Jesus Christ, the historical reality of Christ’s death and resurrection, the trustworthiness of the Bible, and more. ....

Churches that take this training seriously produce believers who will stand solid, no matter what strategy atheists might throw at them—because they will know the truth, they will know that it really is true, and they will know why they know it’s true. [more]